The growth in digitalisation has led to a greater threat of falling victim cybercrime, according to respondents in a survey of the MENA region by data provider Refinitiv.

“Covid-19 put an enormous burden on the risk and compliance functions in a very short amount of time,” said Phil Cotter, global head of customer and third-party risk solutions (data and analytics), for the company.

“The rapid growth in digitalisation during the pandemic has inevitably created opportunities for criminals and fraudsters.

“The risk and compliance functions across MENA are now faced with the rapidly evolving threat of cybercrime, including payments fraud, account takeovers and identity theft.”

Business leaders need to focus on these risk factors by deploying advanced technologies to tackle financial crime which will enhance compliance effectiveness and protect corporate reputation, he added.

Around half (51%) of respondents to Refinitiv’s Financial Crime in MENA 2021 survey said they face new risk challenges, with a quarter citing data breaches as posing the most significant risk.

A third (34%) identify problems associated with data management as the key reason for investing in technology.

On that point, Nadim Najjar, managing director for the Middle East and Africa (data and analytics) at the London Stock Exchange Group, commented: “Now, both local start-ups and regional corporations realise the significance of deploying effective data strategies.

“This growing interest in a data-first approach has expanded the detection and prevention capacity of compliance officers. Data management programs are now driving technology investments in the region.

“This is a trend that we expect to continue as more regulation adds to the complexity of doing business across MENA jurisdictions.”

An example is the quality of ultimate beneficial ownership (UBO) registries, especially with introduction of new US and EU regulation requiring UBO disclosure, Najjar said.

Only 5% of the survey’s respondents say they focus on reporting it.

Other responses included 49% believing crime prevention technologies will witness a significant upgrade in the next two years; 48% reporting a lack of corruption controls during a time of severe supply chain disruption; and less than 1% regarding environment, social and governance (ESG) as a major concern.


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